If you struggle to hear regular conversation or a friend or family member notices you have trouble understanding what they are saying, it might be time to have your hearing checked. One way to gain a baseline evaluation of your hearing could be to take an online hearing loss test. However, using an online test should be only the first step. If you have mixed thoughts on online hearing loss tests and which one to choose, here are some things to remember when making your decision.

Why You Should Be Cautious When Taking an Online Hearing Test

Why Online Hearing Tests Are Difficult

There are several complications to taking an online hearing test. First, you’ll need to create an atmosphere similar to the one a hearing professional would offer. It should be quiet and free from distractions.Once you’ve selected the online hearing test you want to take, set time aside so that you won’t feel rushed.  You should also determine what equipment you’ll need prior to taking the test. This will likely include earphones.Make sure that your cell phone is turned off and that you won’t be interrupted by email or visitors.

The online test will provide instructions, which may be difficult to understand.Be sure you’re ready to listen to the complete list before starting. By understanding and following the instructions, you’ll have more accurate results and it should lessen anxiety and confusion.

However, it’s important to remember that even if you create the best possible environment, it won’t offer the professional grade equipment and tools that a hearing professional can provide.

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The Variety of Hearing Tests and How They Work

Hearing tests are offered in a variety of forms.It’s important to note that children are tested differently from adults and that online tests will be different than in-office tests.Here are four ways adults are typically tested.

The first is apure tone audiometry test, which involves listening to a range of beeps and whistles, called pure tones, and indicating when you can hear them. The softest sounds you can hear are marked on your audiogram. This is the typical format of an online test.
armymedicineThe second is apure-toneair conduction test, which measures hearing by pure tones played through headphones. The sounds go via the air, down the ear canal, through the middle ear and to the cochlea in the inner ear. It determines the faintest tones a person can hear at selected pitches (frequencies), from low to high, and is conducted by a professional.

Another test is called abone conduction test, whichassesses the sensitivity of the cochlea by placing a small vibrator on the mastoid bone behind the ear. Sounds presented this way travel through the bones of the skull to the cochlea and hearing nerves, bypassing the middle ear. This test is conducted by a professional.

Finally, tympanometry is not a hearing test, but is a procedure that determines how well the middle ear system is functioning and how well the eardrum can move. A small rubber tip is placed in the ear. Air is then pumped into the outer ear canal. The results can indicate the location of a blockage causing hearing loss and if medical treatment will help. The procedure is also done by a professional.

Speech discrimination tests can determine the amount of sound distortion a person is experiencing. The person taking the test will hear a series of wordsand will then be asked to repeat each word back, one at a time. If a person’s hearing is damaged, it may not be only volume or quantity of sound heard that is lost but distortion. This test is conducted by a professional.

Limitations of Online Hearing Tests

Online hearing tests simply measure what sounds you can and can’t hear. However, it’s important to remember hearing loss can manifest in various ways:not hearingkey parts of particular speech, difficulty separatingcertain sounds(like voices and background noise) or an intolerance for loud sounds due toa reduced range of hearing.This information also provides data to determine the degree and type of hearing loss you may have, which is typically described as mild, moderate, severe or profound.

Finally, if you do take an online test and realize that your hearing is impaired or less than optimal, you should take the next step and schedule an appointment with a hearing professional. As mentioned above, online hearing tests are limited, but a hearing professional will be able to provide a robust diagnosis and then create a proper plan of action.

Online hearing test image by kc7fysfrom Flickr’s Creative Commons.

Hearing test image by Army Medicine from Flickr’s Creative Commons.